"'Tis the good reader that makes the good book...."
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
Have you seen it?
Were you there?
Pardon me. Unless you have, and were, you don't know what "it" I'm talking about. In my excitement over witnessing the ribbon cutting for the new Columbia County Library, I jumped in at the middle of the story instead of the beginning. You may have read other accounts of the event, but I'd like to share some of my thoughts about the momentous occasion I've just observed.
First impressions of the ceremony:
Piles of children: Evans Elementary kindergarteners in their variegated T-shirts, sitting on the floor between standing guests and the big red ribbon some of them would hold during the "cutting" ceremony.
"The children are what this is all about ... they are our future ... Columbia County is always interested in knowledge and learning," exclaimed proud - and tearful - speakers during the brief, but moving, event.
Commissioner Lee Anderson's reminder that, "We've given the taxpayers what they asked for," was an illustration of democracy in action. No leader forced this facility on an unwilling populace, as might happen under a different form of government. Rather, the citizens were allowed to choose how they wanted to spend the money gathered from the ensuing special-purpose, local-option sales tax (SPLOST), and they chose the library.
Between Commissioner Tom Mercer's invocation, and the Rev. Carolyn Moore's dedicatory prayer that God would "create the seeds of goodness in this space," I saw American Democracy's First Amendment Rights in action. At least here, in Columbia County, Georgia, our leaders have "made no law prohibiting (the mention of) God, religion, or the recognition of divine guidance in community affairs.
Although I've written about Columbia County's historic interest in "knowledge and learning" before, this seems like a good time to review some of those other amazing Columbia County milestones, of which the new library is but the latest indication.
Following his training in both theology and education, North Carolina native Moses Waddell traveled to "the banks of the Kiokee" in 1794 to become a missionary-schoolmaster here. Thus his Biblically named "Mount Carmel" (I Kings 18:20), near present-day Appling, was the first official school in the county, and Columbia County's own William H. Crawford and Richmond County's John C. Calhoun were among his first students. Waddell's reputation increased along with that of his students, and in 1819 he became the fifth president of the University of Georgia.
What are the odds that, with approximately 90 counties in Georgia by the early 1800s, the founders and first presidents of all three major institutions of higher learning in the state would be from Columbia County?
1) Politician, signer of the US Constitution, and educator Abraham Baldwin wrote the charter and served as first president of Franklin College, which later became the University of Georgia;
2) Dr. Ignatius Few, Jr., nephew of William Few, founded and served as the first president of Emory College (now University); and
3) in 1831 Columbia County native Billington Sanders, protg of both Abraham Marshall, second pastor of Kiokee Baptist Church, and area preacher Jesse Mercer, was asked by the Georgia Baptists to establish the denominational college and seminary that later became Mercer University.
Counting these three, plus Moses Waddell and William Crawford's son Nathaniel, who became the fourth president of Mercer, Columbia County has sent five men to the presidency of Georgia universities.
First impressions of the library:
No child - or adult or learning opportunity - has been left behind in the planning and equipping of this wonderful facility.
From the gleaming newness and modern technology to good, old-fashioned reading corners and stacks - and more stacks - of books for every age and category of interest, if it's been written, invented or dreamed up, it's there.
First impressions of culture, arts and education in Columbia County's past, present and, with the new library, future: priceless.
(Barbara Seaborn is a local freelance writer. E-mail comments to email@example.com.)
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